Месечни архиви: декември 2015

EP-EUI Policy Roundtable – Higher Education in the EU: Stocktaking and challenges

Written by Denise Chircop,

EP-EUI Policy Roundtable - Higher Education in the EU : Stock-taking and challenges

EP-EUI Policy Roundtable – Higher Education in the EU : Stock-taking and challenges

On 1 December the European Parliament library hosted a round-table with the participation of MEP Martina Dlabajová, Vice-Chair on the Committee on Budgetary Control and rapporteur of EP initiative report on ‘Creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21st century: matching skills and qualification with demand and job opportunities, as a way to recover from the crisis’ and Professor Joseph Weiler, former President of the European University Institute (EUI, Fiesole).

In his welcome speech Anthony Teasdale, Director General of the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS) pointed out that this round-table was the third of a series being organised in cooperation with the EUI. Prof Brigid Laffan, Director, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, EUI, welcomed the participants from Florence indicating that higher education was facing extraordinary changes as a result of new technologies and internationalisation. She also stressed the importance of Higher Education in the evolution of the knowledge society.

The place of higher education

WEILER, Joseph - President of the European University Institute

WEILER, Joseph – President of the European University Institute

In his keynote speech, Professor Joseph Weiler cautioned that discussing Higher Education in times of austerity measures and high youth unemployment risked being focused exclusively on business and labour market needs at the expense of other considerations. Universities, for instance, are custodians of culture and so the humanities must be defended, yet they are struggling for survival. In his thought provoking speech, he identified some negative consequences of otherwise positive developments. The internationalisation of research is accompanied by the dominance of English as a language of scholarship and in the long-term, this could contribute towards the erosion of Europe’s rich linguistic heritage as other languages lose a certain expressive capacity. Research grants are useful and the competition raises standards, yet bibliometrics and an excessive concern with rankings can obstruct solid scholarship. The international contacts promoted by Erasmus+ are precious but a fetish approach to mobility could lead to undesirable forms of academic tourism. He also compared the situation of doctoral and post-doctoral programmes in Europe with those in the United States, the latter being much more homogeneous. At the same time, he identified some common points in European programmes which would benefit from further reflection. Firstly, doctoral programmes in Europe make no distinction between those who will later join academia and those who will become practitioners. Secondly, they are heavily dependent on the dissertation and its supervision. Thirdly, academic staff rarely receive sufficient formation to teach and supervise and lastly, post-doctoral programmes in Europe are not real programmes but grants that cover the transition between doctoral studies and a post with a university.

New models

A panel discussion followed in which Pep Torn, Library director and Annika Zorn, founder of an on-line school, both from the EUI, spoke of their experiences with on-line learning. Pep Torn drew attention to the changing context of Higher Education. This first panel was chaired by Alfredo De Feo, EP Fellow, EUI. He indicated that to maintain current trends in student intake in the EU, a new university with a capacity of 10,000 students would need to be set up every two days. At the same time the information society has modified the forms of knowledge we priorities. Changes in study and work patterns also mean more adults will continue to study intermittently throughout their adult lives. In this context he questioned whether universities are doing enough to meet needs. He drew on the experiences of the first online university, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), and of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) to explain that technology cannot replace methodology. While online learning can bring together large numbers from different parts of the globe, on-site learning is strong on human contact so that it can be profitable for learners to experience both. Annika Zorn developed the notion of communities of learners by claiming that university teaching needs to move away from lecturing to become more student centred. Universities need to reflect on the learning process in order to become more effective. This can be supported with the exchange of best practice. At the same time, online tools can help create a dynamic relationship between research, teaching and learning. Researchers contribute by presenting their research, learners with questions and challenges. In this way the ‘community’ evolves into a community of experts. She finally raised the issue of engaged interaction with wider society.

Bridging the skills gap

EP-EUI Policy Roundtable - Higher Education in the EU : Stock-taking and challenges

EP-EUI Policy Roundtable – Higher Education in the EU : Stock-taking and challenges

A second panel discussion with MEP Martina Dlabajová and Lars Bo Jakobsen, Head of Unit, Education and Youth Policy analysis Unit at the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) focused on the skills mismatch. The second panel was chaired by Susanne Oberhauser, Director for Structural and Cohesion Policies, DG IPOL. Martina Dlabajová admitted that whereas she used to advocate for stronger links between academia and industry, now she appreciates that collaboration needs to be three way, to include policy makers. The debate and vote that led to the adoption of her report was a clear indication that the subject was controversial. She expressed concern over youth unemployment and low levels of mobility within the EU. As president of a regional Chamber of Commerce, she had understood that companies often considered insufficient cooperation with universities as an obstacle. Synergies are needed to anticipate future skills while guidance and counselling has to help young people to find the motivation to study. Teachers and lecturers need to keep up-to-date so that what they teach is not seen as outdated. Otherwise students could lose interest. Countries with dual-systems of education also have lower unemployment rates, so she was very pleased that traineeships and apprenticeships will be included in the upcoming EURES directive, something she had advocated. EURES is the European job mobility portal.

For his part, Lars Bo Jakobsen explained that Eurydice is a network which is present in 37 countries with 41 national units. It carries out stock-taking exercises following the European Semester which monitor countries’ implementation of the goals they had agreed upon. Policy makers can use the data to revise old priorities and identify new ones in the following round of discussions. He pointed out that the majority of countries have a requirement to formally involve employers in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Most HEIs are required to offer career guidance but they do not often target students from under-represented groups, even though they need it the most. At the same time, only a few educational authorities make systematic use of graduate tracking surveys and this is usually done to measure the quality of institutional functioning.


EP-EUI Policy Roundtable - Higher Education in the EU : Stock-taking and challenges

EP-EUI Policy Roundtable – Higher Education in the EU : Stock-taking and challenges

Discussant Denise Chircop, policy analyst at the EPRS, picked on the tension between universities’ academic calling and the requirement to respond to labour market needs. While acknowledging this dilemma as very real, she pointed out that education is of its nature multifaceted; in practice, educators self-consciously set a variety of aims to teaching and learning. Preparing students for the world of work does not have to be at the expense of personal fulfilment nor the development of proactive citizens. Markus Prutsch, from the Culture and Education secretariat at the European Parliament, concluded by raising three points which he formulated as questions. First, how do e-learning and the digital competencies mentioned in the first panel relate to other challenges in Higher Education such as the internationalisation of curricula? Second, what is the fate of the humanities, and linked to that, critical thought in the Higher Education Institutions of an information society? Third, is e-learning equally appropriate in all phases and contexts of education?


Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/16/ep-eui-policy-roundtable-higher-education-in-the-eu-stocktaking-and-challenges/

Activation of Article 42(7) TEU: France’s request for assistance and Member States’ responses

Written by Suzana Elena Anghel (European Council Oversight Unit) and Carmen-Cristina Cirlig (Members’ Research Service)

Activation of Article 42(7) TEU: France's request for assistance and Member States’ responses

© alfonsosm / Fotolia

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, France requested aid and assistance from the other Member States based on Article 42(7) TEU. This represented the first activation of the mutual assistance clause since it was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Member States expressed their solidarity and political support to France instantly and unanimously. Within days, several Member States, including Germany and the United Kingdom, decided on a series of initial contributions.

More decisions are expected in the days and weeks to come from several other Member States, subject, in some cases, to parliamentary approval. This will allow France to reconsider its engagements and redeploy its military. Furthermore, it could contribute to enhancing intelligence-sharing and the stepping-up of counter-terrorism cooperation. There is also a window of opportunity to strengthen political cooperation, as Member States are expressing their full support for the Vienna process with a view to a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.

Download the French or English version of the Briefing on ‘Activation of Article 42(7) TEU: France’s request for assistance and Member States’ responses’ in PDF.

French military engagements

French military engagements

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/16/activation-of-article-427-teu-frances-request-for-assistance-and-member-states-responses/

Standing up for human rights defenders around the world: What is the EU doing?

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

cardboard paper with HUMAN RIGHTS title

© igor / Fotolia

Support for human rights defenders (HRDs) is a long established component, as well as one of the major priorities, of the EU’s external human rights policy. With the adoption in 2004 of EU Guidelines on HRDs, the EU has established a set of concrete measures for protecting HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid. The Guidelines encourage EU diplomats to take a more proactive approach, by establishing contact with HRDs and intervening on their behalf when they are at risk. The European Commission manages a financial instrument to support HRDs working in the world’s most dangerous situations. A Human Rights Mechanism managed by NGOs with EU financial support has also been launched in order to enhance the effectiveness of EU action on behalf of HRDs. All this makes the EU a major supporter of HRDs in the world.

The European Parliament has been a long-time advocate of a comprehensive EU policy on HRDs, actively contributing to its shaping. It has drawn attention to the difficult situation of HRDs in many countries through its urgency resolutions on human rights breaches in the world, some of which have specifically dealt with individual HRDs facing particular threats. It can also organise hearings with HRDs, issue statements about cases of HRDs at risk, or raise the plight of HRDs during visits by its delegations to the countries concerned. The EP’s Sakharov Prize is the EU’s most visible action in favour of HRDs. Its impact is significant on laureates, providing them with recognition and, in many cases, indirect protection.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Standing up for human rights defenders around the world: What is the EU doing?‘.

Listen to an EPRS Policy Podcast on ‘Human Rights Defenders‘.


Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/16/standing-up-for-human-rights-defenders-around-the-world-what-is-the-eu-doing/

Combating ‘honour’ crimes in the EU

Written by Martina Prpic

Combating 'honour' crimes in the EU

© Norberto Lauria / Fotolia

Awareness of ‘honour’ crimes has increased in the EU in the past decade. Even though the majority of such crimes still usually go unreported, even when made known to the police, this type of crime has often been miscategorised. Experts have warned that this type of violent behaviour is different from, for example, domestic violence, because perpetrators are usually groups of people who find rationale for their crime in their cultures or traditions. The perpetrators believe that by abusing or even killing the victim, they are protecting the family’s or the community’s ‘honour’, which has somehow been ‘tarnished’ by the behaviour of the victim.

Globally, the majority of ‘honour’ crimes are committed in the Middle East and southern Asia. Even though such crimes have mostly been associated with Islam, they also occur in Hindu, Sikh, Druze, Christian and Jewish communities. The EU and the Council of Europe have given much attention to ‘honour’ crimes, mostly through documents dealing with violence against women in general.

Although the incidence of ‘honour’ crimes is higher outside the EU, increased migration and subsequent problems with integration of immigrants into host communities have contributed to these types of crimes becoming a serious issue for some EU countries as well. Apart from individual, national efforts, EU institutions have also taken steps to combat ‘honour’-based violence, mostly within the framework of combatting gender-based violence. The European Parliament has specifically addressed the issue through several resolutions covering ‘honour’ crimes as well as other types of violence over vulnerable groups. The EU institutions have also shown concern for victims outside EU borders, and repeatedly address these issues in countries wanting to join the EU (for instance, Turkey) and in others such as Pakistan and Yemen.

Read the complete Briefing on ‘Combating ‘honour’ crimes in the EU‘ in PDF.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/15/combating-honour-crimes-in-the-eu/

Outlook for the European Council of 17-18 December 2015

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,

At the 17-18 December 2015 meeting of the European Council, EU Heads of State or Government will discuss the migration crisis, the fight against terrorism, Economic and Monetary Union, the Internal Market, the Energy Union and the United Kingdom’s renegotiation of its EU membership. On many of these issues, EU leaders will assess the implementation of their decisions from previous European Council meetings. It will be the first substantial discussion on the United Kingdom’s proposals for changes in the operation of the Union.

1. Fight against terrorism

European Council logoThe fight against terrorism was added to the European Council’s agenda following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015. Heads of State or Government will examine the follow-up to the measures agreed at the informal European Council on 12 February 2015 and assess the implementation of the European Agenda on Security. On the basis of recent Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions, EU leaders are expected to call for the rapid implementation of the measures agreed upon, and stress the need to increase information sharing between Member States and their respective security services. The importance of strengthening cooperation with international partners, such as the United States, for a more coherent approach to counter-terrorism is also likely to be highlighted. The European Council will also address the prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism, the strengthening of external border controls and terrorist financing.

Since the discussion at the 12 February 2015 European Council, the European Commission has proposed a Directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, a Directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, a Directive on combating terrorism, and an action plan against illicit trafficking in and use of firearms and explosives.

In their 12 February 2015 statement, EU Heads of State or Government also called upon EU legislators to urgently adopt the Directive on European Passenger Name Records (PNR). On 4 December 2015, Council approved the compromise text proposed by the European Parliament, which was endorsed by the LIBE Committee on 10 December 2015 and will be voted on during Parliament’s February 2016 plenary session.

2. Migration

The European Council will take stock of the implementation of its decisions taken earlier this year in response to the ‘migration and refugee crisis’, particularly the outcome of the European Council of 15 October 2015. In line with recent statements from the Commission and the Council Presidency, Heads of State or Government are expected to deplore the insufficient level of implementation of some of the decisions taken by the European Council, and call upon all Member States to expedite these measures. For example, the agreement of the Extraordinary European Council of 23 September 2015 to set up ‘hotspots’ in frontline Member States by November 2015 has not been achieved. Similarly, out of the 160 000 people in clear need of international protection and subject to relocation plans; only around 100 have been relocated so far.

EU leaders will also stress the importance of ensuring returns, adhering to readmission agreements, speeding up relocations, managing external borders, establishing further hotspots, ensuring registration and providing sufficient expertise and resources to both EASO and Frontex.

Furthermore, EU leaders are expected to address the Commission proposals – expected by 15 December 2015 – on a European Border and Coast Guard System and the resettlement in the EU of refugees currently in Turkey. Prior to the European Council meeting, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and Sweden will meet with the Commission and Turkey to discuss the proposal on resettlement. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, will attend the first day of the European Council to review the latest developments. The follow up on the outcomes of the recent Western Balkans route conference, the Valletta summit and the meeting of Heads of State or Government with Turkey will also be examined.

The Parliament adopted a resolution on the special report of the European Ombudsman on Frontex, the EU border agency, on 2 December 2015, which includes recommendations on how Frontex may better protect refugees’ fundamental rights. Greece activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, as well as the Rapid Border Intervention Teams Mechanism, on 3 December 2015. While the former aims to provide Greece with material support to help cope with the influx of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, the latter will provide immediate border-guard support on Greece’s external border in the Aegean Islands. Regarding the Schengen area, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers are united on the need for more consultation between Member States before any temporary reintroduction of internal border controls. Ministers also agreed that ‘in the case of persistent serious deficiencies relating to external border controls, the Commission should consider presenting a proposal for a Council recommendation, in accordance with article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code, to extend the period of reintroduction of internal border control to a total maximum of two years’. Both Slovakia and Hungary followed up on their previous announcement and recently challenged the decision on the emergency relocation mechanism before the European Court of Justice.

3. Economic and Monetary Union

Following the presentation of the Five Presidents’ report at the June 2015 European Council, and in line with the European Council Conclusions of October 2015, EU leaders are expected to discuss the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and to call on relevant stakeholders to make swift progress in this regard.

Since the previous European Council meeting, the Commission tabled a package of measures in line with Stage 1 of the Five Presidents’ report (‘Deepening by Doing’) in late October 2015. The package introduces a revised economic governance framework, including the establishment of National Competitiveness Boards within the euro area and an independent advisory European Fiscal Board. The former will aim to monitor competitiveness developments across the euro area, while the latter will mainly assess the implementation of the EU’s fiscal framework and make recommendations for an appropriate fiscal stance to be adopted for the euro area as a whole.

At the same time, the Commission has continued to fine-tune the European Semester after a first attempt at streamlining the process last year. Further emphasis is placed on the social and employment dimensions of the Semester. Alongside the publication of the 2016 Annual Growth Survey – which, similarly to last year, continues to focus on a three-pillar strategy based on growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, boosting investment and the implementation of structural reforms – the Commission decided for the first time to issue euro area recommendations in late November, instead of in May. This shift aims to provide greater visibility on euro area issues and challenges, and highlight the shared responsibilities of participating Member States.

Additionally, a proposal to strengthen the euro area’s external representation at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was tabled. Unified euro area representation and a single seat at the IMF would reinforce the role played by the euro area in talks about future international economic and financing frameworks. It would also help defend the common interests of the euro area at global level.

With a view to completing the banking union, in late November 2015, the Commission also proposed the establishment of a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS), which would help prevent capital flight and deposit outflows. The Commission’s legislative proposal entails a three-step approach in line with the Five Presidents’ report: re-insurance, co-insurance and, ultimately, full insurance as of 2024. The Council will be requested to analyse these proposals and report on progress made by mid-2016.

4. Internal Market

The European Council will most likely reiterate its calls for greater efforts to complete the single market in goods and services. Although it is the cornerstone of EU competitiveness, the Single Market is not living up to its full potential due to a lack of implementation of existing rules, inconsistencies in their enforcement and the existence of diverging legal frameworks in the Member States.

The Commission communication ‘Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business’, unveiled on 28 October 2015, seeks to deliver a deeper and fairer Single Market. It includes a roadmap for legislative and non- legislative initiatives to be presented in 2016-2017. The strategy received widespread support among national ministers in the Competitiveness Council of 30 November-1 December 2015. EU leaders are likely to insist on an accelerated implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy, launched by the Commission in May 2015 and endorsed by the European Council in June 2015. Finally, they are expected to call on Parliament and Council to agree rapidly on early actions for implementing the Commission’s Action Plan on the Capital Markets Union presented in late September 2015, including on the Commission’s Securitisation package, on which Council already reached an agreement on 8 December 2015.

5. An Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy

Heads of State or Government reserved the option to return to the 2030 target after the Paris Climate Change Conference, and therefore the European Council is likely to address the outcome of the Paris Conference, where world leaders have gathered from 30 November to 11 December 2015 to reach a new global climate change agreement in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The EU’s objective is an ambitious, legally binding global agreement with a strong transparency framework and stimulating global transition towards a low-carbon economy. The intended climate actions pledged by the EU and its Member States are based on the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework.

Although not mentioned in the draft annotated agenda, the European Council is also expected to assess progress made in building the Energy Union, with a focus on the internal energy market, research and innovation and energy efficiency. The first annual State of the Energy Union Report was published by the Commission on 18 November 2015 and takes stock of progress made to date and future challenges relevant to all five dimensions of the Energy Union.

According to news sources, EU leaders may also address the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany (which has recently been the subject of conflicting opinions among Member States), as nine Member States have asked for the issue to be included on the agenda of the forthcoming European Council meeting.

6. UK membership of the EU

EU leaders will hold a discussion on the United Kingdom’s demand for various changes in its membership of the Union, and of operations of the EU more generally. Following a commitment made at the European Council of 15 October 2015, UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently outlined, by letter, the United Kingdom’s priorities for reform in four key areas: economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and immigration. The UK Government is looking for assurances that non-euro area members will be treated as equal to euro area members; that competitiveness is boosted by reducing regulatory burdens; that Britain is exempted from ‘ever-closer union’, with national parliaments having a stronger role in the EU legislative process; and, finally, for the limitation of certain aspects of the principle of free movement for EU migrants.

In response to Mr Cameron’s letter, European Council President Donald Tusk has given his initial assessment of the UK’s proposals. Regarding economic governance, Tusk believes a set of principles can be found which will allow the euro area to develop further without discriminating against Member States who are not members, perhaps through a procedure where non-euro area countries can express their concerns without turning this into a veto right. On competitiveness, he believes there is overall agreement on the need to have better regulation, to reduce burdens on business, and to reaffirm the importance of trade for the EU. On sovereignty, he argues that the principle of an ‘ever closer union’ is sufficiently flexible to accommodate different paths of integration for the various Member States. Mr Tusk also stressed that the EU shares the UK’s view on the importance of national parliaments within the Union and, particularly the importance of the principle of subsidiarity. The most delicate issue is the question of ‘in-work’ social benefits and free movement of people. Whilst welcoming the intention to fight abuse of the system, Tusk sees no consensus on the United Kingdom proposal to limit social benefits for EU citizens to those who have been working in the United Kingdom for at least four years. As the adoption of a final package in these fields is currently envisaged for the 18-19 February 2016 European Council, there is likely only to be a general discussion of these topics.

7. Other topics

Heads of State or Government could consider the situation in Ukraine and relations with Russia in the context of the renewal of sanctions against the latter, which are set to expire in early January 2016. Similar discussions last took place at the level of the Foreign Affairs Council in June 2015. However, the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, recently signalled Italy’s interest in potentially raising this issue at European Council level.

Download this briefing on ‘Outlook for the European Council of 17-18 December 2015‘ in PDF.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/15/outlook-for-the-european-council-of-17-18-december-2015/

The EU Trademark reform package

Written by Tambiama Madiega (1st edition),

Red Seal

© diego1012 / Fotolia

The Commission, the Council and the European Parliament (EP) have reached a second-reading agreement on the trademark reform package. Following the Legal Affairs Committee reports adopted on 3 December 2015, the EP plenary is set to approve the amended legislation and the renaming of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) as ‘European Union Intellectual Property Office’.

In March 2013, the Commission presented a package of proposals for amending the Trademark Regulation and the Trademark Directive as well as for adjusting the fees payable to OHIM. The Commission’s main objective in proposing this reform was to make the EU trademark system more accessible, efficient and less costly for business.

The new legislation specifically aims at simplifying, accelerating and harmonising trademark application procedures; at increasing legal certainty by clarifying some provisions; at ensuring better coordination between the EU trademark agency and national offices for the purpose of promoting convergence of practices and common tools; at putting the legislation into line with the Lisbon Treaty; and at updating the governance rules of the EU trademark agency.


Stage: second reading



Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/15/the-eu-trademark-reform-package/

Bridging the digital divide in the EU

Written by Mar Negreiro

Bridging the digital divide in the EU

© Yeko Photo Studio / Fotolia

Digital technologies play an important role in the everyday life of most Europeans; the internet allows people, businesses and governments to transform the ways they communicate and engage with one another. Yet some parts of the population are still excluded from using these new methods. Improving the EU fast broadband internet infrastructure is as important as upgrading the digital skills of citizens: 10% increase in broadband penetration may raise gross domestic product (GDP) by 1-1.5%, and by 2020, 90% of jobs will require some digital skills.

The digital divide has been substantially reduced over the last decade in Europe, but the gap remains far from closed: according to the 2015 European Commission’s Digital Agenda Scoreboard, two related targets have already been met (all EU households can access basic broadband and 75% of all Europeans are regular internet users). However, there is a danger that targets related to fast and ultra-fast speed broadband will be missed, especially in rural areas. Furthermore, important challenges on internet use remain, as about half of the less-educated and the elderly in the population do not use it regularly, and about 58 million EU citizens (aged 16-74 years old) have never used it at all. The digital divide also varies across Member States.

The European Commission is working to improve the situation under the Digital Agenda for Europe and the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. Among the main EU support actions in place are proposals for legislation, different broadband funding mechanisms and support for multi-stakeholder partnerships and research projects to improve digital inclusion and assistive technologies.

Read the complete Briefing on ‘Bridging the digital divide in the EU‘ in PDF.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/15/bridging-the-digital-divide-in-the-eu/

Occupational pensions: Revision of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision Directive (IORP II)

Written by David Eatock (1st edition),

Retirement Fund

© woodsy / Fotolia

In 2014, the European Commission proposed a revision (‘IORP II’) of the existing Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP) Directive of 2003, which covers certain occupational pension savings. These are overwhelmingly in the United Kingdom (55.9% of IORP assets) and the Netherlands (30.7%). The proposed revision aims to improve the governance, risk management, transparency and information provision of IORPs and help increase cross-border IORP activity, strengthening the single market. The proposal did not include new prudential rules (i.e. capital requirements) for IORPs following a long and controversial debate.

Stakeholders have in general welcomed the focus of the proposal and the lack of new prudential rules, but feel the revision is overly detailed and prescriptive and does not respect national competences, nor reflect the variety of IORPs and their position as social (not just financial) entities. The EESC and some national parliaments have made similar comments on the proposal. The Council has agreed on its negotiating mandate, while the ECON Committee is expected to vote on its draft report in early 2016.


December 2015: Occupational pensions: Revision of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision Directive (IORP II) (1st edition)


Stage: Committee vote



Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/14/occupational-pensions-revision-of-the-institutions-for-occupational-retirement-provision-directive-iorp-ii/

EU rules on control of arms exports

Written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig,
Graphics by Giulio Sabbati,

The EU’s Common Position on arms exports is the only legally binding region-wide arrangement on conventional arms exports. While the Common Position has increased information-sharing and transparency of Member States’ arms exports, there is still scope for enhancing the convergence of national arms-exports policies and for stricter implementation of the criteria defined in the act.

EU Member States’ arms exports in 2013

According to the EU’s 16th Annual Report on arms exports, arms exports licensed by Member States in 2013 totalled €36.7 billion, the first decrease since 2010 (in 2011 – €37.5 billion; in 2012 – €39.8 billion). Exports to other Member States made up 29% of all EU arms exports (€10.7 billion). The Middle East was the main non-EU destination of EU arms exports (€ 7.7 billion). The main EU exporters (France, United Kingdom and Germany) accounted for 56% of all EU exports licensed in 2013 (NB: Normally, the value of export licences does not equal actual export values.)

Download this At a glance on ‘EU rules on control of arms exports‘ note in PDF.
See the infographic on ‘EU Member States’ arms exports (2013)‘.

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The Common Position: overview

Total arms exports (value of licences issued)

Total arms exports (value of licences issued)

In 2008, the Council adopted Common Position 2008/944/CFSP (CP) which defines common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment, replacing an earlier political agreement, the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports (1998). With the CP, the EU is the only regional organisation to have established a legally binding arrangement on conventional arms exports. At international level, all EU Member States signed, and 26 have so far ratified, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), in force since 24 December 2014. The aim of the CP is to enhance the convergence of EU Member States’ arms-export-control policies, arms exports remaining ultimately a matter of national competence. In this respect, the CP incorporates eight common criteria (minimum standards) to be taken into account by Member States when assessing export licence applications for military technology and equipment, but also for brokering, transit transactions and intangible transfers of technology. Moreover, the CP defines the scope of the items controlled – in a common EU Military List covering 22 categories of arms, munitions, military equipment and technologies. The EU List is aligned with the Wassenaar Arrangement (a voluntary export controls regime for conventional arms and dual-use items), and is regularly updated, most recently on 9 February 2015. The CP is implemented according to the User’s Guide developed within the Council’s COARM working party.

The common criteria defining rules on arms exports control

The eight common criteria for assessing arms export licences refer to: (1) respect for the international obligations and commitments of EU Member States, particularly sanctions (including arms embargos) and international agreements; (2) respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by the recipient country; (3) the internal situation in the recipient country; (4) risks to regional peace, security and stability; (5) national security of the Member States as well of their friends and allies; (6) behaviour of the buyer country towards the international community, including its attitude to terrorism and respect for international law; (7) risk of diversion towards an unauthorised end-user or end-use; and (8) compatibility of the arms exports with sustainable development in the recipient country. The assessments are made on a case-by-case basis.

Exchange of information and transparency

The Common Position establishes mechanisms for exchange of information on arms export licences and on actual exports (including their financial value); it also institutes the obligation of notifying licence denials and of bilateral consultations when a Member State intends to grant approval for an export licence ‘essentially identical’ to one already denied by another Member State. In 2011, COARM also created an information exchange system between the EU and third countries which aligned themselves with the CP. EU Member States are required by the CP to publish national reports on their arms exports. Also, they are required to provide information for the EU’s annual reports on arms exports (published since 1999). These contain data provided by Member States on the financial value of their arms export licence approvals and actual arms exports, broken down by destination and the categories of the EU Military List, as well as information on licence denials and the criteria invoked for the denials. The 16th Annual Report on arms exports, published in March 2015, includes data on arms exports for the 2013 calendar year. Only 21 Member States publish a national report and most Member States submit only partial information to the EU report.

Assessment of the implementation of CP 2008/944/CFSP

Licence denials by type of criteria

Licence denials by type of criteria

While the CP is assessed as having had a positive impact on EU national arms export policies, through better exchange of information and increased transparency, on the other hand implementation still remains with the Member States and further convergence of national policies is possible. In addition, there is no evidence of the CP having led to more restrictive European arms exports. External pressure, national strategic or economic-financial interests have in some cases trumped the application of the CP. The controversial sale of the French Mistral ships to Russia has been viewed as a case where national interests prevailed over thorough risk considerations. The French decision ultimately to cancel the deal was nevertheless taken without any reference to the CP. Most significantly there are no sanctions under the CP.

Member State exporters

Member State exporters

The Member States’ compliance with the common criteria has been put into doubt, in particular considering the lack of uniform interpretation. Concerning criterion 1, deliveries of military equipment to China is an example of Member States interpreting in various ways the obligations deriving from the 1989 political declaration instituting the arms embargo. Also, some Member States’ arms exports in recent years have been suspected of violating the EU embargos on arms in place. As for criterion 2, EU Member States have exported arms to states and authoritarian regimes where they were reportedly used to commit human rights abuses and infringe international humanitarian law. The EU Member States’ arms exports to Saudi Arabia (one of the largest EU markets in the past decade and second biggest recipient in 2013) and other Gulf or Middle Eastern countries are highlighted by experts, not only in the context of internal repression but also as fuelling a regional arms race and increased instability. Finally, criterion 7 on the risk of diversion to unauthorised end-users/end-use is one of the most invoked for licence denials, but situations of diversion of EU arms exports are still reported. In this context corruption in the defence sectors of recipient countries is a significant factor. Better end-user control of arms exports has been advocated, including proposals for creating a black list of problematic end-users.

Moreover, experts have called for new common criteria, including on the risk of serious corruption or on good governance. In addition, they have pointed to the need for a longer-term, future oriented approach to risk assessment, as well as for honest interpretation of the criteria by all Member States.

The review of the Common Position

Exports of small arms, light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition

Exports of small arms, light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition

A review of the CP was to take place three years after its adoption. In its November 2012 Conclusions, the Council assessed the CP as still suited for its stated objectives. However, improvements were to be made with respect to the guidelines for implementing the common criteria, to refining information exchange and improving the denials notification and consultation mechanism, as well as to ensure compatibility between the ATT and the CP. On 20 July 2015, the Council adopted new Conclusions on the CP’s review, emphasising the development of an IT platform for information-sharing on licence denials and the adoption of an updated User’s Guide to incorporate ATT-related guidelines. The next Review is set for 2018.

The European Parliament adopted resolutions on the topic in 1998, 2008 and 2013, in which the EP has called for a strict application of the common criteria and improved transparency. The report on Arms exports: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP (rapporteur Bodil Valero, Greens/EFA) to be debated on 16 December 2015 also underlines the need for effective and stricter implementation of the common criteria, including through a more coherent policy on embargos; calls for the introduction of a standardised reporting and submission procedure for information from Member States, as well as comprehensive reporting on licences denied; and suggests exploring the option of extending the criteria to the transfer of military and security personnel, to arms-export-related services and to private military services.


Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/14/eu-rules-on-control-of-arms-exports/

Young people engaged but not voting?

Written by Richard Freedman,

eye2016Democracy is about much more than voting once every five years or so in a national or European election. It is also about civil engagement and participation in the democratic process. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that while turnout in the 2014 European elections stabilised at just under 43% (very similar to 2009), turnout has been declining since 1979. Furthermore, turnout among young voters in the European elections of May 2014 (18-24) was low, at 28%. Contrast that with turnout among people aged 55 and over, over half of whom (51%) cast their ballots in 2014, and it’s clear that youth participation in European elections is not the best it could be. The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has traced and analysed voter turnout in this regularly updated facts and figures briefing.

Young people not voting, but positive about Europe

Yet the problem is even more complex. According to the Eurobarometer survey of October 2014 post the European elections, the youngest Europeans (18-24) were more positive about the European Union than the oldest (55+), even though far fewer of them turned out to vote. The same can be said for many national elections. So what can be done about it?

Alternative forms of participation

Girl with a smartphone

Robert Kneschke / Fotolia

A slew of schemes have been launched to encourage young people to become engaged in politics. Initiatives include smartphone apps, vlogging and social media campaigns aiming to revolutionise how young people think about politics. But all of these commendable initiatives do not seem to make a difference in increasing youth turnout.

Young people have developed different forms of political activism and participation, such as demonstrating, volunteering in associations and socialising and expressing political opinions through digital and social media. While social media is increasingly used in campaigns across Europe, the ultimate effect of this usage remains unclear. Some attribute the increasing levels of political activity on the internet to citizens who are already politically committed. It may be that social media have only a very limited effect on getting otherwise disengaged citizens to engage.

Other possibilities to increase young people’s participation in elections include lowering the age of voting for elections, making it easier to vote (online, postal voting for example) or even having quotas for young people as candidates. Some go even further and advocate making voting compulsory, already in use to varying degrees in countries including Belgium, Greece and Australia. Many experts advocate civic and political education at school being a key factor. Curricula vary from one state to another, and education is clearly a national competence, yet teaching participatory democracy from an early age could be one way of addressing the disillusionment with established political parties.

It has also been recommended by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance that political parties need to address youth issues more clearly in their manifestos. Where do they stand on access to education, on combatting youth unemployment, training and social solidarity? Parties could make gains by being responsive: engaging the youth vote would seem to be a long-term strategy towards electoral success.

Europe for Citizens programme

One way the EU is doing something about is by, Europe for Citizens (EFC) programme, (see EPRS briefing) which aims at encouraging direct participation of citizens at EU level and promoting dialogue between the EU institutions, civil society organisations and municipalities. The programme has been running since 2004. For the 2014-20 period the EFC focuses on enhancing European citizens’ awareness of remembrance and the history of the EU, and on actively involving European civil society in shaping EU policy.

Have your say on democratic participation at the European Youth Event in May 2016

Is that enough to tackle the problem? What measures would you like to see taken to tackle disillusionment and low turnout? It would seem that there is no silver bullet or panacea to restoring young people’s faith in politics. At the European Youth Event 2016 (Strasbourg, 20-21 May 2016) no doubt this will be one of the key topics of discussion. Your chance to engage!

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/12/14/young-people-engaged-but-not-voting/